How to Grow Beets

  Red Ace beet
Beets are a cool season crop that can be grown anywhere. They grow best when they mature during sunny days when temperatures are cool and thrive in northern areas where summers are not too hot. Spring planting usually begins three to four weeks before the average date of the last killing frost. If you live in a location with warm summers, allow two months before daytime temperatures reach an average of 80 degrees F or higher. Beets can be succession planted every two weeks until six weeks before the first frost of autumn, except in areas where it is still hot.

Loose, light soils provide optimum conditions for your beets to swell to a nice size. Work the soil well to a depth of 10", removing any materials that would impede their development. Lime is a good addition to soil where beets are to be grown because they prefer slightly alkaline conditions with a pH between 6.5 and 8.The addition of sand, compost or manure is also beneficial.

Beets use boron inefficiently. If your soil lacks sufficient boron you will see signs in the beets' foliage - it will be stunted and misshapen. While boron can be added to the location where you grow your beets, it can be damaging to many garden plants, especially peas, beans and cucumbers, and you must exercise caution when you rotate your crops.

Beet seeds can be started inside in trays to get a jump on the season or sown directly in the garden. If starting inside, you can begin three or four weeks before you would sow outside. When transplanting take care not to damage the taproots and to water them in well immediately. If you are direct sowing, plant the seeds 1/2" - 3/4" deep, 1" apart in rows 12" to 20" apart. The seeds will germinate in soil temperatures between 40 and 90 degrees F and do best at temperatures between 50 and 85 degrees F. Keep the soil steadily moist and weed-free to provide the best growing conditions. Beets that are grown in warm conditions have less color and lower sugar content.

Beets are ready to harvest when they are about 2" in diameter. After they have been pulled, cut the leaves down to within 1" of the beet to prevent drying out through the leaves. If it is season's end and the weather has turned cool, you can store the last remaining part of the crop for up to five months if you keep them in a location that is cold (between 32 and 45 degrees F) and moist (up to 100% relatively humidity and no lower than 80%).

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